Spotlight on Award Winning Aboriginal Businesses in BC



This is my favourite time of the year, when the BC Achievement Foundations hosts the BC Aboriginal Business awards.  The awards are always inspiring and uplifting, showcasing the diversified kinds of business aboriginal people are engaged in!

On Wednesday, October 15th, at the Vancouver Convention Centre, with the oceanfront as the backdrop, 17 aboriginal entrepreneurs/companies were recognized for their success, innovation and contribution to the economy.

A sold out crowd of 635 people attended to celebrate and applaud the award winners. The Leadership Council was well represented by Grand Chief Ed John, Cheryl Casimer, Robert Phillips and Ray Harris for the First Nations Summit, Chief Bob Chamberlin and Chief Judy Wilson represented the UBCIC, and Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould of the BCAFN. Bruce Dumont, President of the Metis Nation of BC also came. Many First Nations Chiefs and Council attended, far too many to mention here.  Perry Bellegarde, candidate for National Chief also attended to show his support for Aboriginal business.

 Minister Rustad, Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, made the opening remarks and presented the awards.  The Minister emphasized the growing number of aboriginal business in the province and the significance to the economy of BC.

It takes many things to run an award winning business. Having a dream and making it come true, support from family and employees, funding from First Nation programs, financing from financial institutions, opportunities provided by procurement or activities in the area, coming together as First Nations despite overlap issues, doing a good job to get return customers, innovation and determination. The businesses chosen to be honoured all excelled in many areas to be distinguished as winners in their categories. 

 Award winning businesses were very diversified.  In the area of esthetic services, the Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Santana Walker runs T’sala Spa in North Vancouver whose business was made profitable in 3 years.  Jennine Walker of Pure Beauty operates a successful business out of White Rock for make up artists by assembling individualized make up kits.

One of the more advanced technologies honoured was Harwood Custom Composites, a company based in Sydney that produces about 90 different parts for Twin Otter Airplanes. Using fibreglass with an epoxy primer is an exacting process to ensure parts are up to standard.

Tourism was a big area for awards this year.  Outdoor Adventure Tourism included Northern Star, owner Warren Palfrey whose business does gold panning, ice fishing, dog sledding, camping, bush experience and other activities. Belle EE Acres Recreation owners Gabe and Peggy Pukacz have a recreational facility that features golf, mini golf, horseshoes, go carts, badminton.  Sidney Whale Watching run by Michael Child runs a successful business that he bought from his employer and also bought out a competitor.  Sandra Malone runs Thunderbird RV Park and Campground, a community run business of the Campbell River Indian Band. Thunderbird has an amazing statistic of having 75% of their visitors as return guests, showing the quality of their business.  One could do an amazing tour of BC visiting all the aboriginal tourism services.

Construction and Industrial type companies were another large category for recognition. IVL Contracting is run by Gary Forsyth, a company that engages in light to heavy commercial and industrial and custom concrete.  SCS Diamond Drilling run by Spence Coutlee does drilling and drilling related services in the mining industry. Kalum Quarry Ltd, run by Kitsumkalum First Nation, produces various sizes of aggregate and gravel for both industrial and residential products.  They have easy access to the CN rail line to ship their products.

Joint Venture Businesses included Meziadine Junction Holding, a venture of Gitanyow Band and their Hereditary Chiefs who created a 190 Man camp for workers on the Northern Transmission Line.  Another JV was Secwepemc Camp and Catering, with Adams Lake, Neskonlith and Splatsin First Nations and Horizon North Camp and Catering put together and run a 400 bed construction lodge for Mica Dam under a contract with BC Hydro to design, manufacture, transport and operate.  

 Bizzie B’s Residential and Commercial Cleaning does a wide arrange of cleaning of vehicles, commercial offices, pays their employees well and does an incredible business.  Bizzie B often hires people to bring them back into the working environment.

Two vital community enterprises included 4Evergreen, owned by Saulteau First Nation, build roads, clear rights of way for energy, levels ground for development, ensures rivers remain untouched, and hires many people. 4Evergreen is an economic powerhouse for the First Nation.  Heartland Economics Ltd. operates a community forest for Westbank First Nation. High environmental standards are undertaken to preserve First Nations values and interests in the land. 

The Individual Achievement Award went to Councillor Garry Feschuk of the Sechelt First Nation. Individual Achievement Award goes to a person who has made a difference for Aboriginal business beyond being a successful entrepreneur.  Garry has been leading a small group of First Nations to create opportunities in clean energy and provide direction on revenue sharing for clean energy in the province.  Building a successful run of the river project using a longhouse design for a power house was an important part of his work along with the development of a mall which is in its third phase, forestry and construction, aquaculture and tourism. Their own Self-Government Act means Sechelt owns its own land and development can happen quicker than under the Indian Act.  Garry has been both chief and on council for 27 years and has worked for the future of Sechelt for economic opportunities, education, revitalizing language and culture, to become a thriving community. 

If you would like to view the videos of the recipients, you can find them on the BC Aboriginal Achievement webpage-you can get a taste of the evening and the kinds of businesses aboriginal people are involved in.

 Remember you can nominate your favourite aboriginal business anytime for next years awards.

 Keep tuned for next year’s awards and make sure you attend this very worthwhile and empowering event!

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